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TIFF concerned over missing Syrian filmmaker

The Toronto International Film Festival is among global industry interests expressing concern about Orwa Nyrabia, a Syrian filmmaker and festival organizer who disappeared last week en route to Egypt.

Nyrabia is believed to have been detained by Syrian security services as he prepared to board a flight from Damascus to Cairo.

On Thursday, a TIFF news release expressed its concern about Nyrabia, who has not been seen since Aug. 23.

“Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom. We are extremely concerned by his arrest — filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal,” the release said.

Nyrabia’s wife, Diana El-Jeiroudi, issued a statement last week saying she had had no contact with him and had heard from the airline that he did not board the plane. Film industry professionals in Europe and New York have also called on Syrian authorities to account for his whereabouts.

Nyrabia and his wife formed the first production company in Syria independent of the government and founded Dox Box, a festival that brought international documentaries to Syria.

Earlier this year, they were awarded a prize by the European Documentary Network for their exceptional contribution to the development of documentary cinema. The prize came with resources that helped the festival remain independent.

Brought Syrian films to global audiences

Nyrabia often served as a jury member in film festivals in Europe and the Middle East. This year, he also organized a Dox Box Global Day to bring Syrian films to international audiences, showcasing insider views of continuing violence and government repression in Syria.

The festival website said its aim was to show the world “how poverty, oppression and isolation do not prevent humans from being spectacularly brave, stubborn and dignified.”

Troops with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are engaged in a brutal crackdown on rebels demanding political freedom.

Nyrabia worked on films such as 2002’s Sacrifices with Oussama Mohammad and was collaborating with documentary director Omar Amiralay, an activist involved in the Damascus Spring, when Amiralay died in 2011.

The international film community has also rallied around filmmakers such as Iran’s Jafar Panahi, who was detained last year.

CBC | Arts News